Members or customers?

Simon Gibbs comments on terminology in recent Society member communication.

I was surprised and more than a little disappointed to receive an email from ‘The British Psychological Society’ (dated 11 October) that I presume all members received, telling me to expect a ‘better customer service experience’. I hadn’t until then seen myself or any ‘members’ of the Society as ‘customers’ (aka ‘clients’?) of the society. I thought as subscribers we were members who could participate in the democratic processes of the society. As a test of this new relationship that seems to have been unilaterally imposed, I sent an email to the ‘customer support team’ and have yet to have a reply! Could we please discuss how members are being positioned, by whom and for what purpose?

- Simon Gibbs
Professor of Inclusive Educational Psychology and Philosophy
Newcastle University

Dan O’Keefe, Head of Membership and Customer Service responds:
We use the word ‘customer’ in this context because Customer Relationship Management is the generic name given to the type of system that we are launching.

The majority of people using the new system will be our members, and the main function of the new system will be to enhance membership of the society. Our members are our core concern in everything that we do, and that will not change.

This system will also be used by others, including our subscribers and people who create an account to register for an event or purchase something from our shop, and sometimes the terminology we use might reflect that.

We hope that the new system will allow us to provide the best service to everyone, but particularly our members.

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